The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office today published a patent application created by Apple, detailing a method for the extensive waterproofing of various components within a device, possibly an iPhone, thus creating a completely waterproof smartphone without the need of a special case (via Patently Apple).
Originally filed in September of 2013, the patent application describes a "hydrophobic coating" to be layered onto integral parts within a device, like its printed circuit board. Apple describes achieving this using a "plasma-assisted chemical vapor deposition (PACVD) process" that would adhere the coating substance onto the surface of the printed circuit board in such a way as to not take up much additional room in the already small casing of a smartphone.
In the bigger picture, immersing electronic devices in water generally has predictably negative results. Through testing it has been determined that high voltage power components are more likely to short or malfunction after only brief exposure to liquids or moisture. More specifically, exposed metal areas having high voltage differentials in close proximity can easily experience short circuit events when corrosion or water immersion bridges the gap between such areas.
By providing an insulating layer or barrier around these highly susceptible parts, water resistance can be substantially increased without obscuring functional openings leading into a device housing of a particular electronic device. A thin hydrophobic (i.e., water resistant) conformal coating having a thickness between at least one and ten microns can be applied to a substrate using a plasma-assisted chemical vapor deposition (PACVD) process. The PACVD process charges the surface of the substrate so that the coating can be bonded to the charged surface.
Though not completely waterproof as Apple's new patent intends a device to be, Tim Cook recently stated that the company's upcoming Apple Watch will in fact be a bit more water resistant than previously thought. He stated that he wears his personal Apple Watch everywhere, "even in the shower." If so, the Watch will be the company's first device with such a water resistant claim.
While the patent application doesn't specifically state what device the waterproof process could be attributed to, it's easy to see the company reasoning the method for use on iPhone and iPad. Although, like with all other patents, the practicality of a completely waterproof iPhone launching anytime soon is highly unlikely, but it's always an interesting glimpse behind the scenes regarding what the company may be considering for its future.